Sensory activities for 1 year olds

Sensory Activities for 1 Year Olds: The Busy Parent’s Guide to Easy-Peasy Fun

Hey, I know the feeling. As a parent of a 1-year-old, you’ve probably spent more time than you’d like to admit handing over your phone or tablet just to grab a few minutes of peace.

Screen time guilt starts creeping in, but you’re not always up for full-on playtime the second you walk in the door. I get it, we’ve all been there!

But here’s a little secret – sensory activities for 1 year olds can entertain and stimulate your tot’s mind and body with minimal effort on your part. You don’t need to be the cruise director of baby fun 24/7!

Simple sensory experiences using stuff around the house can boost their development in huge ways.

Let your toddler lead their own expedition through touch, sight, sound, and more. From squishing cloud dough to exploring feathery and smooth textures, it taps into their innate curiosity.

Best part? You get to sit back and witness the sensory magic unfolding before your eyes. Ready to see your home in a whole new sensory light? Let’s dig in!

1 year old in high chair engaging in sensory play

Easy Sensory Activities for 1 Year Olds

The kitchen is a treasure trove of sensory play for babies! When you start seeing everyday ingredients as tactile adventures, the opportunities are endless. Here are some stimulating edible sensory activities that build key fine motor skills along the way:

Spiderweb Dough

Mix together 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup oil, and food coloring. It creates a stretchy, moldable dough. Your baby will love kneading, squeezing, and shaping the dough. The resistance strengthens little hand and finger muscles that are crucial for fine motor development.

  • Best for ages 12-24 months with supervision.

Turkey Baster Squirting

Load up some old turkey basters with water and let your tot practice squeezing and releasing the bulb to make streams and squirts. Controlling the turkey baster builds hand strength and coordination.

  • Start with just a little water, then increase the amount as skills progress.
  • Adult supervision is recommended to keep your kitchen from turning into a water park.

Edible Fingerpaint

1 year old painting

Make your own edible fingerpaint with pudding, yogurt, or applesauce mixed with food coloring. Offer it in a shallow tray or spread directly on a plastic mat or paper. Let your baby smear away to their heart’s content! 

Since they will already be covered in paint, you could try some handprint art for the next activity!

  • Using their fingers to manipulate and smooth the paint builds fine motor control.
  • Ensure kids don’t eat more than a taste.

Spray Bottle Painting

Partially fill some clean spray bottles with water and let your toddler work on squeezing the trigger to make streams they can “draw” with. 

  • It’s great for strengthening those little hand muscles.
  • Supervise to prevent drinking.

DIY Kinetic Sand Game

While this one isn’t edible it can be made with common kitchen ingredients.

Mix everything together in a large mixing bowl and dump it in a try with some cookie cutters, shovels, trucks, or whatever your little one wants to drag through the sand!

YouTube video

Outdoor Sensory Activities

Take sensory play outside and see nature as your toddler’s textured playground. Here are simple ways to stimulate their senses and build tactile diversity:

Texture Collection

Gather interesting natural items on walks like pinecones, acorns, seeds, feathers, rocks, sticks, leaves. Bring them home for your baby to touch and explore. 

Running their hands along the diverse shapes, bumps, grooves, and smoothness builds sensory awareness. Rotate items to keep it novel.

Mud Kitchen

1 year old playing in mud

Designate a mud kitchen area with some old pots, spoons, funnels, sieves, etc. Let your toddler squish and smear mud, make “mud pies”, and mix up concoctions. The cool, wet mud offers great tactile stimulation.

  • Added benefits are strengthening spatial perception and introducing early science concepts.
  • Use safe, clean(ish) dirt, and wash kids afterward!

Backyard Touch Table

Place toys of various textures on a low outdoor table or tray – metal, wood, squishy, bumpy, smooth, cold, and warm. Encourage your baby to touch and play while describing each item you feel together. 

  • Varying the textures expands sensory learning.
  • Rotate items to keep it engaging.

Leaf and Stick Mobile

Tie or tape leaves, sticks, pinecones to pieces of string. Hang your nature-inspired mobiles from a tree branch. When the wind blows, talk to your baby about how the mobile is moving. 

  • The dancing shadows and rustling leaves make for multi-sensory engagement.

Spa Style DIY Sensory Activities for 1 Year Olds

mom and baby at the spa

Forget the fancy spas – you can create the ultimate toddler oasis at home. Here are ideas for immersive, soothing DIY sensory activities:

Cloud Cream

Mix together shaving cream and hair conditioner or cream cleanser until light and fluffy. Scoop into a shallow bin or tray.

Let your baby immerse their hands in the billowy, soft cloud cream – great for open-ended sensory play. The light scent and squishy texture offers a wonderfully calming experience for little senses.

  • Avoid putting the cream on their face or in their mouth

Water Bead Sensory Bin

Add clear water beads to a small tub or tray. The beads magically grow in water, forming a cool gel-like orb. Babies love scooping them and watching them jiggle.

  • Provide cups and spoons for pouring fun. The mesmerizing beads encourage endless sensory exploration.
  • Supervise closely to avoid mouth contact. While these grow to a large size, they start out smaller.

Lavender Rice

Stir some dried lavender into a batch of uncooked rice. Provide cups and spoons for scooping and pouring the rice. The light scent has a soothing aromatherapy effect.

  • You can extend play by adding small toys to “find” in the rice. A calming experience that activates the senses.

DIY Foot Spa

1 year olds feet

Fill a shallow bin with warm water and add soft washcloths. Let your toddler immerse their feet and gently rub. The warmth, motion, and textures offer comforting proprioceptive input.

  • You can make it more engaging by adding bubbles, bath bombs, or plastic animals.

Winter Wonderland Sensory Activities for 1 Year Olds

1 year old in the snow making a snow angle

Bring the magic of winter indoors with these snow-inspired sensory play ideas. Explore new textures while building early concepts:


Fill a plastic bin with snow. Provide mittens or small shovels for scooping and pouring. Let your baby feel the strange, moldable texture.

They’ll love plunging their hands in and watching it “melt” through their fingers. Introducing this new tactile experience builds sensory flexibility.

Mini Snowmen

Build small snowman figures and practice dressing them with scarves (bibs work great), hats, and fruit for their face to build fine motor skills. Your baby will have a blast giving the snowmen a makeover while developing dexterity.

“Ice” Cubes

Toss in blue water beads – they resemble melting ice cubes! The fun beads encourage exploratory play while the color contrast teaches concepts like hot/cold. Watch your baby marvel at the glistening “gems”.

Sensory Play With Unexpected Household Items

Look around your home for unique textures just waiting to be explored. Ordinary items can become extraordinary sensory adventures:

Laundry Bag Fidgets

1 year old in a laundry basket

Stuff a mesh laundry bag with toys, then securely tie it closed. Let your baby manipulate the bag – squishing it, pulling the sides, reaching inside. The mesh resistance builds strength while keeping toys safely contained.

  • Refresh it by adding new items.

Aluminum Foil Painting

Lay sheets of foil on a tray. Demonstrate scrunching and crinkling the shiny surface. The crinkly sound and moldable texture make for sensory discovery!

  • For added engagement, provide toddler-safe paint for “coloring” the textured foil.

Pillow Obstacle Course

Set up a path using couch cushions, pillows, and rolled blankets to climb through and over. The soft, squishy textures provide soothing sensory input. Your baby will enjoy maneuvering through this cushy course!

  • Rotate items to create new paths.

The Benefits of Sensory Activities for 1 Year Olds

1 year old on the phone making a funny face

That’s sensory play in action! And it’s not just about having fun – it’s a powerful tool that can boost language skills, motor development, and cognitive function.

Language Development

Imagine your little one playing with different fabrics. They’re not just feeling the difference between soft velvet and rough denim; they’re also unknowingly picking up words like “smooth,” “scratchy,” or “fluffy.”

Cool, right? Sensory play gives toddlers a whole new vocabulary to describe their world. It’s like unlocking a treasure trove of words, which fuels their language development.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills

When your kiddo is engrossed in stacking blocks or finger painting, they’re doing more than just playing. They’re fine-tuning their fine motor skills – those tiny hand movements that we often take for granted but are crucial for tasks like writing or buttoning up shirts.

And what about those big splashes in the bathtub or crawling through homemade obstacle courses? That’s their gross motor skills kicking in, helping them master large movements like walking or jumping.

Who knew playtime could be such a workout!?

Cognitive Function

Here’s something you might not expect: sensory play is also a fantastic workout for your child’s brain. When your toddler realizes that squishing a toy makes it squeak, they’re actually learning about cause and effect.

And when they’re trying to figure out how to stack blocks without toppling them over? That’s problem-solving in action!

Sensory play fosters curiosity and encourages kids to experiment, helping them understand the world around them. It’s like giving them the keys to their own personal laboratory where they can explore, discover, and learn.

Make Sensory Play a Daily Habit

As parents, we often find ourselves stuck in a loop of familiar games and activities. It’s easy to feel like you’re just going through the motions, trying to keep your little one entertained. Maybe you’re thinking, “Isn’t there more to playtime than just, well, play?”

Guess what? You’re absolutely right.

Let’s shake things up a bit. Let’s transform playtime into an adventure. Picture this: your child, wide-eyed and giggling, exploring a world of textures, sounds, and colors. They aren’t just playing—they’re learning, growing, and discovering, one sensory experience at a time.

Remember how sensory play can unlock a treasure trove of words, boosting your child’s language skills? How it fine-tunes their motor skills, setting the stage for everything from writing to buttoning up shirts? And how it turns them into budding brainiacs, teaching them about cause and effect and problem-solving?

That’s the power of sensory play. It’s not just fun and games—it’s a springboard for development. It’s your child’s first taste of science, art, and exploration. And it all starts with you, stepping out of the routine and diving into a world of discovery.

So, go on. Break out the sand, the water, the squishy toys, and the colorful blocks. Turn your living room into a texture-based obstacle course. Fill the bathtub with rubber ducks and watch as your little one delights in the splash.

Because you’re not just a parent—you’re a guide, a mentor, an architect of experiences. And every time you introduce a new sensory activity, you’re opening a door to a world of discovery for your child.

So, are you ready? Ready to unleash the magic of sensory play? To turn ordinary playtime into extraordinary learning experiences? To watch your child grow, learn, and discover, one giggle at a time?

Let’s do this. Because playtime is about to get a whole lot more exciting. And remember—every squish, splash, and giggle is a step towards your child’s bright future.

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